Photo: Shaul Golan
Smadar Peri
Photo: Shaul Golan

Leave Mubarak alone

Op-ed: Israeli preoccupation with Egyptian president’s health irritates Cairo

The joke making the rounds in Cairo at this time relates an encounter between Angel Gabriel and President Mubarak. I came to take you away from your people, the angel announces. Mubarak, with his direct style, looks at Gabriel with curiosity: Really? Where are we going?


Enough already. The preoccupation with the Egyptian president’s health (every three or four months he’s said to be dying, yet he insists on staying alive) has become a national sport around here. They killed him when he collapsed in parliament, when he disappeared from the media two years ago, when he traveled for surgery in Germany, and most recently when his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu was cancelled twice within a week.


He was not only said to be secretly flown to treatments and operations in France and Germany; people around here swore that the photographs being published in Egypt are reminiscent of the Soviets, who published archive photos of sick rulers.


Nature will eventually take its course, and the 82-year-old Mubarak will no longer be here with us. Yet those who rush to declare that he is dying should take some facts into account.


Firstly, the strict law in Egypt bans discussion of the president’s health and threatens the spreaders of rumors with prison terms. Only two years ago, opposition paper editor Ibrahim Issa was sent to prison because of a dramatic headline about Mubarak’s absence that immediately prompted the stock market to plunge and caused tens of millions of dollars in damages.


Secondly, Mubarak’s close associates refuse to adopt the rules of transparency. Whether the elderly president just feels like staying at home or whether he truly requires medical treatment, these associates will not yield even if the president’s rivals demand an up-to-date photo on the front page every day.


Thirdly, the editor in chief of popular daily al-Quds al-Arabi has a long score to settle with Mubarak. The editor does not miss an opportunity to attack, smear, and incite the opposition. In London, where the paper is printed, anything goes in respect to Egyptian affairs and Mubarak’s mysterious and publicly known illnesses.


‘Mossad knows best’

This party has now been joined by Syrian intelligence, which claims that Mubarak secretly flew for treatments in Germany. Yet how could it be that of all sources, the Lebanese Safir (Assad’s loyal mouthpiece) “knows” first about Mubarak’s medical schedule?


The centralized Egyptian regime is premised on a strict method of conduct via institutions: The political establishment, the army’s defense establishment, the intelligence branches, and the business community that grants backwind to the top brass. We can assume that the “day after Mubarak” scenario has already been prepared in detail, and every senior official knows his tasks for that day.


The exaggerated preoccupation around here with Mubarak’s health irritates Egyptian institutions. For example, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef provided PM Netanyahu with a letter wishing Mubarak good health and a long life, yet the letter was leaked a week before the meeting.


Every news report published here immediately makes its way to the Arab media, which stresses that the Mossad has the latest updates, our intelligence community closely monitors the doctors, and Israeli journalists receive online reports from headquarters. Yet if one insists on asking what exactly we know around here, one would receive contradictory reports.


One of Mubarak’s former aides, Dr. Mustafa al-Fiqi, caused a great row in Egypt after swearing that the next president will only be appointed with the approval of the US administration and Israel’s intelligence community. Meanwhile, Mubarak has not announced whether he intends to again run for presidency at the end of next year.


After the barrage of reports around here and the efforts to identify a successor, we need to leave them alone. We should not rush to tell everyone about our impressions from Netanyahu’s meeting with Mubarak. This does not bode well for the health of our relationship. We know that the “post-Mubarak era” shall arrive, and we know that contingency plans exist; so enough, let’s stop digging.



פרסום ראשון: 07.21.10, 12:03
 new comment
This will delete your current comment